STEM Day at the Capitol • Florida’s Science Centers & Museums Engage Legislators and Advocate for More Funding

Florida educators share the importance of science education during STEM Day at the Capitol

Orlando Science Center is partnering with museums, science centers, educators, and corporations from around the state at STEM Day at the Capitol in Tallahassee on Tuesday, January 25, 2022. The goal is to engage legislators about the critical role that Science Centers and museums play in inspiring and creating the STEM workforce of tomorrow while also advocating for increased funding to support these efforts.

Participants will be stationed inside and outside the Capitol building with experiments, displays, robots, and more! Throughout the day, state legislators will take part in hands-on activities while learning how STEM education helps grow Florida’s technological workforce. Science museums act as a hub for STEM learning and can easily facilitate opportunities between industry, education, and the public. It is one of the few places where these three audiences can easily and effectively connect for discussion and demonstration.

During STEM Day at the Capitol, participating partners, including student groups, will share their passion for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) with legislators, demonstrating the impact that their efforts can have on economic development across the state. STEM has evolved to become a critically important topic in education and industry. Our country’s standing in the global marketplace is dependent on our ability to compete with other nations in technological innovation. Such success requires an educated populated and skilled workforce.

Science literacy not only leads to a better understanding of life’s problems, but it promotes the development of skills to help solve them. Through study and experimentation, we acquire knowledge, which leads to understanding, innovation and ultimately prosperity. Regardless of the field they enter, tomorrow’s workforce must have a strong grasp of 21st century skills like problem solving, critical thinking and collaboration. These skills are reinforced through active, challenge-based activities offered at museums and science centers.

two mean practicing virtual reality flying during STEM Day at the capitol

In recent years, less than one-third of university students in the United States have chosen to pursue a STEM field. According to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, STEM occupations are predicted to increase 10.5% between 2020 and 2030 with the median annual wage more than double that of non-STEM occupations. Industry must partner with educational institutions and informal learning centers like science museums to start preparing the future workforce for jobs that don’t even exist yet.

STEM Day at the Capitol illustrates how collaborations with industry and academia can help fill the STEM pipeline, and we are excited to take part in the event. Such partnerships provide opportunities to engage youth by bringing STEM subjects to life. By presenting the real-world applications of STEM skills in compelling ways, students are inspired to pursue further education and careers in STEM fields.

How Native American Tribes Shaped Purple Martin Birds

 Learn how Native American tribes shaped Purple Martin birds and their nesting habits 

Did you know that Purple Martins famously don't build their own nests? You could almost call them people martins because they depend entirely on human-made nests to raise their chicks. 

It’s been documented that when indigenous peoples would hang out their gourds to dry, Purple Martins started nesting inside them. They left them hanging up in their villages for the birds to live in. To this day, Purple Martins are one of the only bird species to prefer human-made houses over natural ones. Using what we’ve learned about how Native American tribes shaped Purple Martin birds, we can better practice conservation efforts for migratory birds.


Disney’s Animals, Science, and Environment department built a specialized Purple Martin house for Orlando Science Center. Our high-rise, park-front condo features 22 different nests for new martin parents to raise their young (and it’s already furnished!) Our house is located in Loch Haven Park, just outside the 4Roots Cafe.

a group of kids looking a a purple martin nest at orlando science center

What Native tribes housed Purple Martins?

Martins are migratory birds. They spend the winter and fall in Brazil and make their way to Florida every spring! 

Florida is home to several tribes of Indigenous peoples. Each Native tribe is unique, and their people lived in different regions and spoke different languages.

Using the Native Land App on your Apple or Android device, you can find out what Native Land you currently live on. Orlando Science Center is located on Timucua land!

Learn about some of the most historically documented Native American tribes in Florida!

A map of florida showing Native American tribe territories
*It's important to note that this is not a complete list. Indigenous peoples lived in what is now known as Florida for more than 12,000 years before the time of first contact with Europeans.

The Seminole (Creek) tribes are well known for their beautiful woodcarvings, beadwork, and baskets.

The Choctaw tribes were known for their colorful clothing. The women typically wore multi-colored dresses or wrap-around skirts and the men wore colorful shirts made of woven fibers

The Timucua were known to have more permanent villages than the other tribes. Each family had their own home but the cooking took place in the village and meals were held daily in a central location

The Calusa are considered to be the first "shell collectors." Shells were discarded into large mounds. Unlike other Indian tribes, the Calusa did not make many pottery items

The Jeaga are hunter-gatherers who subsisted mostly on sea turtles and oysters, as well as conch, fish, deer, raccoon, manatee, alligator and shark. They also collected wild plants including coco palms, sea grapes and palmetto berries

The Tequesta used shells and sharks' teeth for a variety of tools. These included hammers, chisels, fishhooks, drinking cups, and spearheads. Sharks' teeth were used to carve out logs to make canoes

The Apalachees played a ball game that was a religious exercise as well as a sport. One village would challenge another to a match, and the two teams would have up to 100 players each. They used a hard clay ball about the size of a golf ball covered with buckskin. Players propelled the ball with their feet toward the goal post which was a pole topped with a stuffed eagle in a nest. They played the ball game in the spring and summer, and dedicated it to the gods of rain and thunder to ensure rain for their crops.

The Miccosukee historically are farming people. Miccosukee women did most of the farming, harvesting crops of corn, beans, and squash. Miccosukee men did most of the hunting and fishing, catching game such as deer, wild turkeys, rabbits, turtles, and alligators. Miccosukee included cornbread, soups, and stews in their meals

The Ais are one of many tribes, consisting of several hundred thousand people that lived in Florida prior to first contact with Ponce de Leon and the Spanish in 1513. The Ais tribes fished using hooks made from the toe bones of deer they had hunted, taking full advantage of the great catches available off the coast of Florida

3D Printing Assistive Technology • How the Maker Movement is Making A Difference

How open-source 3D printing is changing the world of assistive technology

The concept of 3D printing, or Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) has actually been around since the early 80s thanks to Dr. Hideo Kodama, with the first 3D printer commercially available in 1986. 3D printing became a revolution in the STEM community with use by engineers, inventors, and even medical professionals when a 3D printed kidney was successfully transplanted to a patient in 1999!

As 3D printing technology became more diverse and affordable, it has continued to gain popularity among scientists, makers, and hobbyists alike. From a 3D printed car to a 3D bioprint of Vincent van Gogh’s ear, it seems creativity is the only limit.


3D printing also increases accessibility with much success in printing casts for broken bones, prosthetic limbs, even wheelchairs that can be customized and created for a fraction of the cost. These are a cost-effective way to keep up with a child as they grow, or damage their current one in the act of being a kid.

Limbitless Solutions, a UCF-based nonprofit organization, dedicated to empowering children through expressive bionic arms at no cost to their families surprises 7-year-old with 3D printed Iron Man prosthetic arm presented by Iron Man himself, a.k.a. Robert Downey Jr.

While it seems almost anything can be 3D printed, it must first be designed and modeled – a process which is often easier said than done. Even that skill is no match for the triumph of the human spirit. Open-source websites have become popular hubs for professionals and makers to freely share their designs.

Websites such as Thingiverse, e-NABLE, and NIH 3D Print Exchange - COVID-19 Supply Chain Response, not only allow designers to help each other improve their work, but makes affordable technology more accessible.

From 3D modeling to soldering a circuit board, The Hive: A Makerspace Presented by The Isaacs Family is one of OSC’s newer exhibits, that focuses on learning new maker skills, as well as new and creative ways to use them. Whether you’re a tech tycoon, or a happy hobbyist, it’s never a bad idea to add another skill to your metaphorical, or literal, toolbelt.

A boy examining a 3D printed object in The Hive.

Learn more about the Maker Movement!

Can Service Dogs Help STEM Professionals?

Learn how service dogs can help people with disabilities breakdown barriers!

Have you ever seen a person using a service animal? Why do some people have animals that help them complete tasks? 

When most people think of service animals, what probably comes to mind is a person who is blind using a seeing-eye dog, but there are a wide variety of disabilities and medical conditions where a service animal can be used to help people.

People who have disabilities sometimes use service animals, like dogs, to help them complete day-to-day tasks easily. Service dogs are specifically trained to help their owners complete tasks they would not be able to do independently; like open a door, bring them their car keys, and even guide a person who is blind across a street. Some dogs can detect when a person’s heart rate lowers, or when they are showing signs of anxiety from previous trauma. The dogs can alert their owners, and they can then take medications they need, prevent an anxiety attack, or get to a safe space away from people.

Service dogs are “tasked trained” meaning there is a specific task or behavior they have been trained to perform to help their owner. This is what separates them from just your average pet dog. Not every person with a disability needs a service dog, but some people can’t imagine trying to live their life without one!

Sierra Middleton was an animal care intern at Orlando Science Center where she helped to clean enclosures, walk animals outdoors, provide a science learning experience for guests, performed water chemistry testing, and learned how to train exotic animals, accompanied by her loyal service dog, Duke. 

To me, Duke is more than just my service dog - he’s my lifeline in a lot of ways. He means an increased quality of life; helping me with things every day as simple as picking up my dropped phone to as great as alerting me to an impending medical episode.

The many ways I have trained him to help mitigate my disabilities have certainly helped me in more ways than I can count, but in all honesty it was the mere existence of his unconditional love that acted as a light at the end of a long, dark tunnel.

Sierra Middleton
OSC Intern & Volunteer
a STEM professional with her service dog

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law on July 26, 1990, by President George H.W. Bush. The ADA is one of America's most comprehensive pieces of civil rights legislation that prohibits discrimination and guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in the mainstream of American life -- to enjoy employment opportunities, to purchase goods and services, and to participate in State and local government programs and services. 

Learn More!

How Digital Technology Helps Healthcare Professionals Treat Patients Through the Internet

What do you get when you put together communication technology and healthcare?

Answer: Telehealth

Telehealth is the use of different devices, like computers, phones, and tablets, to get medical care. It allows doctors, nurses, and patients to communicate through digital means. Telehealth has been growing in popularity since last year. This is mostly because the pandemic forced people to use more digital forms of communication—even in the healthcare sector.

To illustrate, virtual care visits in New York University’s Langone Health Center grew by more than 600% following the pandemic. But even after the pandemic ends, the American Telemedicine Association believes that telehealth services will remain necessary in improving and saving the lives of many Americans. Telehealth is vital for helping both healthcare workers and patients—and here’s why:

Telehealth allows consultations to be more accessible

Apps like Messenger and Zoom are making it possible for everyone to set up virtual calls with people across the globe. Similarly, telehealth apps serve as a video conferencing and messaging platform for healthcare professionals and patients. Through their gadgets, patients can book virtual appointments,

ask for prescription medicines, and share health information with their doctors. And this can all be done remotely, meaning patients in rural locations have better access to quality healthcare services.

Telehealth helps in monitoring patients

 Telehealth also allows doctors and nurses to keep a close eye on their patients, even from a distance. With telehealth apps, patients can fill out forms about their physical state and send them to their healthcare providers. And some devices, like smartwatches, even let doctors monitor a patient's heart rate from miles away. Plus, healthcare professionals continue to improve telehealth services by adding all sorts of new features.

For example, Tata Consultancy Services found out that 86% of healthcare organizations are already using Artificial Intelligence (AI) for their services. Kenneth Stanley, a professor of Computer Science at the University of Central Florida, points out that AI is essential in this practice because it can automate services and provide quicker access to information. Because AI has become more accessible and user-friendly, healthcare professionals are using it to monitor remote patients.

Telehealth assists in healthcare education

 Telehealth is also essential for future healthcare workers, because the Internet makes it possible for them to learn from anywhere in the world. Through telehealth services, medical trainees get to observe and participate in real hospital cases without leaving their homes. These online platforms allow our future healthcare workers to learn from hospital scenarios without getting exposed to dangerous diseases.

This is also why more educational institutions have made it possible for general studies degrees in healthcare to be completed 100% in a virtual environment. The remote learning setup allows aspiring healthcare professionals to acquire essential medical skills through safe and accessible means. Through these online classes, students learn crucial concepts in ethics, medical terminology, informatics, and public health. This is so they have the necessary knowledge once they start working on hospital cases and telehealth-related services.

Telehealth makes it easier to collect and access medical records

The use of telehealth in the medical sector has made it very easy for professionals and patients to access health records. Printed reports and paper forms are a thing of the past. Now, patients can access online portals and communication apps to save and forward important health data. This way, their healthcare providers can easily access the information through their own device and send back their health recommendations.

With telehealth services, both healthcare workers and patients can access important data whenever and wherever they want. Digital technology has improved healthcare services by providing accessibility, convenience, as well as safety. With telehealth, healthcare providers, patients, and even aspiring healthcare workers can easily retrieve and send information—all through an online platform.

Learn More!

Inspirational Queer Makers Who Made an Impact on Orlando Science Center’s Makerspace

Do you love The Hive: A Makerspace? Meet some of the inspirational queer makers who inspired your favorite activities!

Pride month is celebrated in June to commemorate the Stonewall Riots in 1969, which is considered to be the igniting spark that began the gay liberation movement. Pride month is a time for the LGBTQIA+ community to celebrate – to be openly proud to be queer. Queer people have made countless visible and invisible contributions to culture and society. Here at Orlando Science Center, we want to celebrate some inspirational queer makers who have inspired or influenced The Hive: A Makerspace.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of LGBTQIA+ makers, but ones we have felt inspired by here in The Hive.

Keith Haring was a gay artist who painted public murals and graffiti in the 1980s.

He got his start painting subway murals with chalk and was arrested a number of times for his illegal street art.

Keith Haring contracted HIV which later developed into AIDS and became very involved in AIDS activism. His diagnosis propelled him to make as much art as possible as quickly as possible in the time he had left, as he felt his art was the most important thing he could leave. He died in 1990 at age 31.

inspirational queer maker keith haring painting

Jasika Nicole is an actress most well known for her role as Astrid Farnsworth on Fringe, however, she is an accomplished sewist and artist.

Nicole makes almost all her own clothes, many of her shoes, and works in other media like ceramics, illustration, and fiber arts. She documents many of these pursuits on her blog Try Curious.

She is a strong advocate for the rights of people of color and the LGBTQIA+ community.

inspirational queer maker Jasika Nicole

Cressa Maeve Beer is a stop-motion animator and video producer who has worked in commercials, music videos, makeup tutorials and independent short films.

She recently gained visibility with her short film Coming Out, where Little Godzilla comes out as trans and is welcomed with love and acceptance.

Anna Villanyi is a museum professional, artist, crafter, musician, and animal enthusiast. Their passion for making and fascination with the natural world converge in their design of intricate animal snowflakes, which they cut by hand and translate to laser cut designs for their shop called Annamalflakes.

Their creative force helped shape The Hive's design, ethos, and early programming.

Anna Villanyi

Grace Bonney is an author, blogger, and entrepreneur. Bonney wrote a New York Times book, In The Company of Women, featuring over 100 stories about women entrepreneurs overcoming adversity. She also wrote the DIY interior design book Design*Sponge at Home. Her blog, Design*Sponge, ran for 15 years and connected and taught countless makers.

Grace Bonney

Nick Cave is best known for his soundsuits, which are wearable fabric and mixed media sculptures intended to move and make sound when the wearer moves or dances.

His first soundsuit was created as a reaction to the beating of Rodney King in 1992. Cave has created over 500 soundsuits since then, including one currently on display at the Orlando Museum of Art.

He currently lives and works in Chicago.

Wendy Carlos is an American electronic music composer credited with pioneering synth-pop music. She worked with Robert Moog on his invention of the Moog synthesizer, and released an album called Switched-On Bach, composed of Bach music played on a synthesizer, popularizing synth music sound.

She went on to compose the film scores of A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, and Tron.

In 1979, she disclosed that she had been living as a woman for over ten years and was transgender.

Wendy Carlos by a piano

Learn more!

Who is TIME’s First Kid of the Year? Get to Know Gitanjali Rao

Who is TIME's First Kid of the Year? Find out in this inspiring interview! 

Who says you have to be an adult to be a scientist? Definitely not this 15-year-old who is taking the world by storm! Orlando Science Center got the chance to chat with Gitanjali Rao.

Gitanjali Rao is a 15-year-old Indian American inventor, author, scientist, S.T.E.M. promoter, and engineer. She is working to solve some of the world’s messiest problems by inventing solutions - like a device that detects lead in drinking water, an app to help prevent cyberbullying, and more!

You've probably heard of TIME's Person of the Year, but for the first time ever, a kid was also chosen. Who is TIME's first Kid of the year? You guessed it, Gitanjali Rao! She was TIME Magazine’s first Kid of the Year, as pictured on the cover of the magazine. She was interviewed by Angelina Jolie and was chosen from more than 5,000 US nominees for the prestigious title of TIME’s Kid of the Year. "If I can do it, you can do it, and anyone can do it," she said.

While she is working to shape and save the future of our world, she has also written a new book entitled A Young Innovators Guide to S.T.E.M. Grab a copy and share it with your favorite aspiring scientist to help unlock their innovator within.

The Orlando Science Center had the pleasure of discussing some topics with Gitanjali. During our conversation, she explains that no matter your age or where you live, anyone can be a S.T.E.M. professional if they are passionate enough. We also had Gitanjali help us celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, by telling us what heritage means to her.

...heritage is a unique and inherited sense of one's identity, passed down from generations. This is what makes us who we are.

Gitanjali Rao

Gitanjali also highlights “values, traditions, culture, art, and cooking styles” which help us stay in touch with our heritage. She ends by telling us that she is proud of who she is, and her heritage. She believes everyone should be, too, because that is what makes us... us

Thanks Gitanjali Rao for helping OSC inspire science learning for life, no matter who we are, where we come from, and no matter our age. And a huge thanks for helping us celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. How will you be celebrating this heritage month? Try taking some time to find out what you can do for the community.

High School Students’ COVID-19 Projects Take Top Prizes at Ying Science Competition!

Pandemic Inspires High School Students COVID-19 projects to Develop Better Face Coverings and Filtration Systems!

Since 1999, Dr. Nelson Ying — local scientist, entrepreneur and philanthropist — has partnered with Orlando Science Center to celebrate outstanding science students through his sponsorship of the Ying Student Science Competition. Among the four finalists this year, two projects inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic so impressed the judges that both students— Annika Vaidyanathan and Ishika Nag — were named Grand Prize Winners during a virtual ceremony this past weekend.

The awards were presented by Ying’s son, Nelson Ying, Jr. and Fred Curtis, co-founder of the competition and longtime Orlando Science Center volunteer and donor. Annika Vaidyanathan and Ishika Nag receive a $5,000 scholarship, a $1,000 award for their science teacher or mentor, and an additional $1,000 for their school. The remaining finalists also received cash prizes to help fund their continued research. To compete in the Dr. Ying Science Competition, each entrant must be a Central Florida high school student and pursue a research project that has the ultimate goal of benefiting humanity. Finalists presented their findings during video meetings with a judges’ panel of educators, engineers and scientists. This is the second year that the competition has been held virtually instead of in person due to the pandemic.


COVID-19 influenced both high school students Annika Vaidyanathan and Ishika Nag's winning projects.

Annika, a junior at Winter Springs High School, wanted to increase the effectiveness of face masks to help slow the spread of the virus. She developed and tested a coating that would cause COVID-19 virus-sized nanoparticles to bead and roll right off a face mask, creating greater protection for the wearer. She also looked at ways to manufacture this coating safely and cost-effectively. 

Annika Vaidyanathan - One of the Central Florida Teens Change the World


Meanwhile, Ishika, a sophomore at Oviedo High School, was focused on improving the efficiency and affordability of air filtration devices, like both masks and HVAC filters, by coating them with nanoparticles. Ishika’s research showed that this coating improved a mask’s air pollution and virus filtration efficiency while ensuring its safety for human use. She was originally inspired to pursue this multi-year project after visiting a friend who had moved to New Delhi.

She saw firsthand how much her friend’s life had been impacted due to the change in air quality. The global pandemic then convinced this Central Florida teen to create a low-cost, high-quality filtration device that could protect people from both pollution and airborne viruses, not only locally but around the world.

Ishika Nag


The competition also awarded the remaining two finalists cash prizes to further their research. Nikhil Iyer, a junior at Edgewood Junior/Senior High School in Merritt Island, won $1,000 for his research on improving machine learning by modeling artificial neural networks after the human brain using virtual neurotransmitters.

NIKHIL IYER - One of the Central Florida Teens Change the World


Gustavo Toledo, a senior at Edgewood, won $500 for his research to improve the hydrodynamic efficiency of autonomous underwater vehicles by testing torpedo models with various golf ball-sized surface textures. Nikhil’s project could increase the efficiency of artificial intelligence while Gustavo’s project could enable underwater research vehicles to go further and collect more data over a longer period of time.

Gustavo Toledo

Dr. Nelson Ying is a longtime supporter of Orlando Science Center. After sponsoring numerous exhibits and serving on the Science Center’s board of trustees, he decided to invest the long term impact of our mission to inspire science learning for life. He and Curtis launched the Dr. Ying Science Competition in 1999 to encourage exemplary science students to use their knowledge and skills to address real-world problems.

Dr. Ying’s son, Nelson Jr., now oversees the competition with Ying and Curtis in collaboration with Orlando Science Center. They hope to inspire young people to become good role models and successful world-changers by leveraging their passion for science. Past winners of the Dr. Ying Science Competition have gone onto prestigious universities, such as MIT and Johns Hopkins, and fascinating STEM careers, including NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.


Books About Exploring Space for Any Planet Pioneer

From the moons of Endor to the moons of Jupiter, astronaut enthusiasts will love these books about exploring space!

Scientists from Albert Einstein to Carl Sagan have emphasized the importance of imagination. For something to be achieved, it must first be imagined. It’s little wonder then that science fiction has time and time again become reality.

Jules Vern imagined landing on the moon as far back as 1865 with From the Earth to the Moon. In 1953, Ray Bradbury described listening devices that sounds suspiciously like Bluetooth headsets in Fahrenheit 451. In 1898, the internet was described in a short story called “From the ‘London Times’ of 1904” by none other than Mark Twain. These are but a few examples.

In this spirit, here are some books about exploring space that you can find on your library’s shelves that complement the Science Center’s exhibit Our Planet. They’ll have you imagining what could be next!

Books selected by the Acquisitions Services department of Orange County Library System.

Whether you're a Trekkie or a Wookie, these books about exploring space are phenomenal for all sci-fi fans! 

by Andy Weir

Taking place in 2080, this novel is set in Artemis, the first and thus far only city on the Moon. The main character finds herself caught up in a conspiracy to control the city.

Artemis by Andy Weir

The Martian
by Andy Weir

The story follows an American astronaut, Mark Watney, as he becomes stranded alone on Mars in 2035 and must improvise in order to survive.

The Martian by Andy Weir

by Kim Stanley Robinson

Jumping forward in time quite a bit, this novel is set in 2545 and concerns an interstellar ark starship launched to being a human colony. The story is narrated by the ship’s artificial intelligence.

books about exploring space - Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson

The Terranauts
by T.C. Boyle

A similar ark theme but set in a biosphere in 1994 as climate change threatens Earth. Human nature is under the microscope as eight scientists live and work in a prototype of a possible off-earth colony.

Books about exploring space - The Terranauts by T.C. Boyle

by Ben Bova

Part of the author’s Grand Tour Series, each novel follows the colonization of the Solar System by humans in the late 21st century.

Saturn by Ben Bova

Check out the history, herstory, and future of space travel with this non-fiction selection!


Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto
by Alan Stern and David Grinspoon

The story of the men and women behind this amazing mission and their decades-long commitment and persistence. You’ll also get a look into the political fights within and outside of NASA.

non fiction books about exploring space - Chasing New Horizons_ Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto by Alan Stern and David Grinspoon

by Mike Massimino

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to look back on Earth from outer space and see the surprisingly precise line between day and night? This author has been there and he puts you inside the astronaut suit with his book.

Spaceman by Mike Massimino

Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars
by Nathalia Holt

Based on extensive research and interviews with all the living members of the team, this is the riveting true story of the women who launched America into space.

non fiction books about exploring space -Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars by Nathalia Holt

The Mighty Mars Rovers: The Incredible Adventures of Spirit and Opportunity
by Elizabeth Rusch

For younger readers, this books tells of two Mars rovers that were intended to do research for three months and wound up exploring the red planet for six years.

The Mighty Mars Rovers_ The Incredible Adventures of Spirit and Opportunity by Elizabeth Rusch

Packing for Mars
by Mary Roach

From the space shuttle training toilet to a crash test of NASA's new space capsule (cadaver filling in for astronaut), Roach takes you on a surreally entertaining trip into the science of life in space and space on Earth.

Packing for Mars by Mary Roach

The Mars challenge: The Past, Present, and Future of Human Spaceflight
by Alison Wilgus

This nonfiction graphic novel in which a teen who dreams of being the first woman on Mars is taken on a conceptual journey of what that might be like.

non fiction books about exploring space - The Mars challenge: The Past, Present, and Future of Human Spaceflight by Alison Wilgus


Try a Stellar Activity!

Have you ever looked up at night and thought "what does the moon feel like?"

Using our DIY Moon Sand recipe, you too can experiment and make your own moon craters and touch the surface of the moon!

New Food Heroes Exhibit Presented by Orlando Health Puts Down Roots at Orlando Science Center

See how local partners are creating a more equitable, sustainable, healthy, and community-based food system in the all-new Food Heroes Exhibit presented by Orlando Health!

Orlando Science Center in collaboration with a host of community partners has developed an all-new hands-on exhibit illuminating the fascinating and complex world of our food system. The Food Heroes exhibit is presented by Orlando Health and is located on the first level of Orlando Science Center in the all-new 4Roots Cafe. Inspired by John Rivers of 4Rivers BBQ/4Roots and his passion for food and farming education, we enlisted a group of advisors, including 4Roots, to help develop an experience featuring food heroes making a positive impact in our community and how each of us can join them to make a difference.

“Food might be the true universal language,” said JoAnn Newman, President and CEO of Orlando Science Center. “We need it to sustain ourselves. We use it to comfort ourselves. It is often a singular reason for us to engage with one another. This exhibit promotes the interconnectedness of the food system, and spotlights those people fighting to make it more equitable, sustainable, and healthier for everyone. We are so grateful to our exhibit partners and to our presenting sponsor, Orlando Health, for collaborating with us to make this exhibit a reality.”

Through this integrated exhibit/dining experience, visitors participate with interactive stations, see videos, get cooking tutorials, and learn how to get involved with local efforts. Interactions include a robotic arm that “picks strawberries” as an example of farming automation and an interactive where visitors learn about pollinators as butterflies interact with their shadows. Visitors can also control the decomposition of fruits and vegetables using time-lapse video to understand the importance of composting. And a living wall highlights the importance of vertical farming in growing food as our population increases and we need to grow more food in urban environments, closer to the people who need it most.

Guests controlling robotic arm to pick strawberries in Food Heroes exhibit

“One of the main pillars of 4Roots as an organization is education. We strive to educate our community about the connection between food choices and individual health while helping students and farmers to grow fresh produce sustainably.” said John Rivers, Founder and CEO of 4Roots. “We are delighted to partner with the Orlando Science Center on the Food Heroes Exhibit and to honor those that are working to provide a healthy and accessible food system for our community.”

A demonstration area with a giant LED screen provides an opportunity for expert speakers from Orlando Health, 4Roots, and others to present on topics ranging from nutrition to soil science. This space will also be the setting for cooking demonstrations, where cameras will provide an intimate view of the process on the LED Display. When not being used for demonstrations, the LED Display will present a 30-minute video, featuring local food heroes. Fifteen different local organizations share their stories, ranging from hydroponic gardens to culinary medicine. Spotlighted organizations include 4Roots, Black Bee Honey, HEBNI Nutrition, Fleet Farming, O-Town Compost and presenting sponsor Orlando Health, among others. Their stories share the impact our community is making on the issues of sustainable farming and food security.

Person doing demonstration in Orlando Science Center Food Heroes exhibit

“Orlando Health is thrilled to be the presenting sponsor for Orlando Science Center’s new Food Heroes Exhibit,” said Antwan Williams, administrator for Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children. “We believe that this will be a fun and engaging way to educate families in our community about the importance of proper nutrition as part of an overall healthy lifestyle.”

The Food Heroes exhibit, presented by Orlando Health, is included with paid admission to Orlando Science Center and access is free for annual members. Visitors are encouraged to explore the new exhibit and then enjoy a delicious and healthy meal of locally sourced food, prepared by the 4Roots Cafe. Coming soon, visitors will enjoy a web-enabled app experience that is being developed for future use. They will also soon be able to create their own digital plant, which will then be shared on the LED Display with other visitor creations.

Learn More About our New Exhibits and Dining Options